PMC 2007 Trip Report

The 2007 Pan Mass Challenge took place on August 4 & 5 this year. Let me start by apologizing for taking 6 weeks to get to this trip report. I pride myself on getting this out the week after the ride. This year has been extremely hectic and I honestly don’t know where the time went post PMC.

I was fairly nervous about being able to complete the ride as most of you are aware. Getting cleared to ride 5 weeks before the ride meant that my training would be very compressed. It was kind of like cramming for a test. To put it in perspective, I usually train 12-14 weeks on the road putting in about 2000+ miles to get in the shape I like to be in for this ride. I also workout in the gym to get the strength needed. This year I had to do with about 900 miles and very little gym time but let’s not forget that this is the Pan Mass “Challenge”. So, I had my challenge and I’m proud to say I completed the entire 192 mile long route.

I could not have done it without the help of my physical therapists and my friends. This was truly a team effort.

The weekend began with my friends Mark and Dave traveling to Sturbridge Friday afternoon. It was a perfect day weather wise. I was happy to be able to get there without an injury (remember 2006???). We got out there around 2:00, checked in to our hotel, picked up our registration package and were ready for the weekend.

Some of our team cycled to Sturbridge from the NY border that day. They wanted to do a “true pan mass” which meant 95 miles in the blistering heat through some very hilly terrain. They did it though and arrived shortly after we did. We were a little more rested though. Every year they try to talk me in to riding it with them from the border. I get the “come on Bill, don’t you want to be able to say you did the true Pan Mass and crossed the entire state”? My reply used to be “next year”. Now it’s just “no thank you, I’m good with two days and about 200 miles.” I think after 19 years of doing this I don’t feel the need to prove anything.

PHATs arriving from NY

(Marc, Fred, Andrea, Tim, and Bob arrive from the NY border ride on Friday)

The afternoon was spent catching up with people. It really is like a family reunion. I’ve known a lot of these people for so long and some I only get to see a couple times a year so this is always a good time. Of course I took the ribbing from all that know me well. “Hey Bill, what, no cast? No crutches?” I suppose I earned it. I was honestly just happy to be there and healthy enough to do the ride. Most people were surprised I was going to do the ride considering the injury this season but anyone that knows me knows that as long as I’m able I will do this ride. It means too much to me.

The afternoon went by in a flash. Dinner was served in a tent by the lake next to the Sturbridge Host. We carbo loaded on chicken, pasta, some sort of seafood salad and some wonderful deserts. From dinner it was on to the opening ceremonies. It was so hot. I know it was a while ago but think back to that first weekend in August with temperatures in the high 90s. R.D. Sahl from NECN looked like he walked through a shower while he was MC’ing. The Sturbridge Host was having A/C trouble and it was hard enough to sit there and be a spectator let alone be on stage under the hot lights and performing. There were the typical speeches that over the years I’ve come to expect. One thing that always amazes me is that this just never gets old to me. It always hits home and serves to remind me why we’re riding and that what we are doing IS making a difference. Never more evident than when Jack came out on stage. Some of you may recall Jack from my past trip reports. Jack is the little boy that was featured in some of the PMC literature and on NECN. He first made his impact on the world of the PMC when he was 4 years old. There he was holding a sign saying “Thank you. I’m 4 because of you.” He instantly became a symbol for the PMC. Jack’s parents would bring him to Nickerson State Park every year where he would hold his sign and hand out something to the riders thanking them. Jack came out on stage carrying a sign this year that said “Thank you. I’m 11 because of you.”

The opening ceremonies wrapped up, we headed back to our rooms, got all our gear ready for the ride the next morning, and went to sleep by 10. The wakeup call came in at 4:15 but I was actually up already. This wouldn’t happen on any normal day but at 4am I was wide awake and ready to get this journey underway. I was excited and very nervous.

Dave and I put our bikes out at the front of the starting line before 5am. Bikes at start

(Sturbridge starting line around 5:30am)

We were among the few that left their bikes out there at that time but being veterans we know what it takes to get a good starting position. So, bikes in position we went inside, had some breakfast. We met up with the NECN crew after breakfast to do a quick interview. I had been contacted and asked if I would do this before the ride. It was a short piece focusing on me riding 19 years but also about why I would do this ride after such a serious injury. Some of you saw it on NECN and I have a copy of it that I will post online.
OK, so nerves and excitement were building. It was time to go back to the starting line and get ready to roll. Well by the time we went back the area was packed with about 2000 bikes and people. Lucky for us we put flashing lights on our bike so we could find them. We were still up front. We picked up our bikes and listened to the opening speeches. About 10 minutes before we’re ready to roll several people came up and jumped in front of us. There goes front of the line. I said “hey, come on, what gives”? Senator Kerry turned around and smiled. We just laughed and figured “OK, I suppose he can get away with it”. Well, 5 minutes later we hear this very loud “bang”. It sounded like a gunshot. It was a tire that popped. Senator Kerry’s tire blew out. I turned to the guy next to me and said “you think it was full of hot air”? That got a laugh from all around us and even a smirk from the senator.

The star spangled banner was sung, the starting gun fired and off we went. There’s just such a great feeling to roll out with over 2000 bikes. We owned the road if only for a short while. I had to make sure I paced myself and hold myself back from going too fast and burning out too early. This was tough as everyone’s adrenaline is pumping and while this is not a race people ride like it is. You get caught up in it and it’s always a trip to ride that fast.

The temperature was very warm and it was really humid at 6am when we started. We knew it was going to be a hot day. Key to the day… Drink! I rode out with my friends Marc Mann and Dave Winthrop. We worked together as a team and covered the first 20 miles quickly (approx 20.5 mph pace). We filled up our bottles at the first stop and got right back out on the road. Stopping for long times is not a good idea and we have this down to less than 5 minutes at most stops. Out of the first stop and on to Franklin. We were making pretty good time and arrived in Franklin around 8:30.

The Franklin stop is special to us for many reasons. First and foremost it is our home turf. The water stop is at the location of our weekly training ride start. Our team, PHAT Tuesday, has such a huge support base there that coming in to this stop is just a trip. All the signs welcoming us as well as friends and family out there cheering us on. The other main reason Franklin is special to me is that this is where my family volunteers. My wife, son, daughter, and mother in-law are all out there from 5:30 on to get things prepared for all of us to ride in. We arrive to food, drinks, and just a party atmosphere that all of the volunteers make possible. I’m very proud and honored to have my family out there working the event so we can ride.

As much as we love Franklin we get in and out in a flash. It was getting very warm by then too. You don’t realize how hot it is till you stop. So, back on the road and on our way to the 3rd stop of the day at the Dighton-Rehobeth school. This is the lunch stop. We pulled into lunch around 10. This is the stop we spend the most time at. Our goal is about 15-20 minutes. Well, we ended up there around 45 minutes. By the time we got back on the road our legs were a bit stiff but we loosened up fast thanks to the temperature being in the 90s.

The ride was going great. I was pacing myself and happy with how things were going. I was feeling good and riding strong. Around 90 miles my right leg had a twinge. Ouch. I’ve had this before and knew it was the dreaded leg cramp coming on. Great, I still had about 20 miles to go for the day. We pulled over and I worked the cramp out. I downed a 20 oz bottle of water and off we went. Now understand I was putting down 40 oz of water about every 20 miles or every hour plus. You’d think this would be enough to stay properly hydrated. Not in that heat though. No worries. My friends stuck with me and we rode on. We made it to the next stop and cringe, there it went again. Off the bike, rub out the cramp, back we go. There was no way I was going to get driven in after coming so far. Marc and Dave hung with me through it all.

At one point the cramp hit again and lucky for us there were some spectators setup in front of their house. They called us over and had gator-ade, water, bananas and crackers. These were such nice people. They asked if there was anything else they could get us. Marc said “a cold beer would be nice”. They said “what kind would you like?” We laughed, thanked them and were on our way. We were too close to stop now and a beer with another 10 miles to go would not be smart.

We rolled into the Mass Maritime Academy at 1:45pm. I was totally spent. It was really an emotional finish. I was just so happy to be in and done with the 112 miles. We ended up sending Dave on when there was about 15 miles to go. He was really itching to get in early and we didn’t want to hold him up. Funny thing is, we got in only 15 min after he did. My usual finish time is somewhere between 1:00 and 1:15. I had set my goal on 2:30 – 3:00 and could not have been happier finishing when I did with an overall average speed of 17.5 mph for the day.

We parked our bikes, made our massage appointments, and made our way to our dorm rooms where our luggage had already been delivered. I grabbed a nice long shower and made my way to the quad for food and the afternoon festivities. It was a perfect day at the MMA. Sun was shining, a nice breeze coming off the ocean, and live music playing.

My cousins Lenny, Elaine, and Michelle and Dave’s dad were among the volunteers taking care of us at MMA. And take care of us they did. The food ranged from Legal Seafood clam chowdah to burgers to salads to pizza to chili… Beer was provided by the Harpoon brewery. Honestly, I think I had a half a beer all afternoon. I was in need of rehydrating and beer just doesn’t do it for me. Lots of water and juices though got me feeling great.

We had our annual dinner at the Beechmoor and as always it was an amazing feast. The owner takes such good care of us. She made our special fried chicken livers. I know these don’t sound too appetizing but trust me, they’re amazing. They are not on the menu but she knows we love them and has them made just for us. We’re not sure exactly what’s in them and don’t really care. We believe they do help us on day 2. I said “believe”, not “know scientifically” 🙂

Dinner came and went in a flash. It seems the whole weekend does that for us. So we said our goodbyes to Rita and the staff and off we went back to the MMA to get some sleep so we’re ready to roll by 5:15am.

Morning came all to fast. We got up, dropped our luggage on the truck, chowed down some breakfast and off we went on schedule. Sunday is team day for us. We ride with our entire PHAT Tuesday team. This is just fun.

We start the day going over the Bourne bridge. The sunrise from the bridge was absolutely beautiful. We go from the bridge and onto the canal road. This is a really nice way to warm up. The canal road is about 5 miles and flat. This is perfect as we’re still all shaking out the cobwebs. We have the most amazing views of the sun coming up over the water too. From the canal we are off to the access road that parallels route 6. This part of the ride is a blast as the road is just long and rolling hills. Once you hit your stride you just fly along. We covered the first 20 miles quickly, watered up and on our way to water stop 2 at Nickerson State Park. This is a really nice flat section (and the only flat section) of the cape. The team flies over this section in a pace line moving along at about 25 mph average. There’s nothing like it.

Just before the water stop at Nickerson we pass what is known on the PMC as “Da Hedge”. “Da Hedge” is a Cape Cod camp along the route. There is a huge hedge along the road and it is lined with all the campers. They’re out there with signs, balloons, streamers, noise makers, and are cheering so loud that it nearly lifts you off your bike as you go by. We always look forward to it. There are signs along the road for miles leading up to it building the anticipation of what’s to come.

(Fred, Dave, Jack, Marc, Bob at the Nickerson stop)

We rolled into Nickerson and there’s Jack. This year he was handing out Mardis Gras beads which most of us graciously accepted and wore for the remaining 40 miles of the ride across the cape. Jack is now 11. Jack not only stood out there cheering and handing out beads but this year he rode the final 40 miles with his dad on a tandem bicycle. Pretty amazing.

Off we went on our journey heading to the third water stop in Wellfleet. This stop has a real party theme. They had little shot glasses of gator-ade along with limes for the closest thing we’d get to a live Margarita at this stage of the ride. The gem at this site however is the ice couch. Yes, this is a couch fashioned out of bags of ice covered with a stylish throw cover. It felt so good to sit on and cool off and was very tempting to sit there a while. However, we had work to do and it was time to roll out for the final 20 miles to Provincetown.

(PHAT Tuesday riding along the cape)

(Bill, Dave, and Marc on the ice couch)

(Jim Barry and Pete Broman share a mock shot)

(PHAT Tuesday riding along route 6)

The final leg of the ride took us from Wellfleet to Truro. Truro is absolutely beautiful. It is what comes to mind when I think of Cape Cod. There are roads winding through marshes, along beaches and just some of the most tranquil land along the route. It is amazing to me that this area of Cape Cod has managed to maintain its charm without being overbuilt.

We make our way through Truro and are dumped out onto route 6 to begin the final trek to Provincetown. Route 6 is really tough to ride on. It was extremely windy that day and between the hills and the sand coming off the dunes and just being exhausted from the two days of riding it can really beat you up. We worked as a team though and made it up to one of the most welcome sights along the route. The sign said “Entering Provincetown” and that’s when we know we’re just about done. However, we still have race point to ride through.

Our team regrouped at the entrance to race point. We stopped for a picture and then hit the final hills. Somehow we all manage to summon the energy to fly through these last miles. It was a lot of fun cranking through these final miles with my fellow PHATs. We exited the point and hit the final mile down route 6 to the finish line. Our team is one of the few to finish together. It was very cool to be part of this and finish the ride as a team. The cheers from the crowd and the feeling of team accomplishment is hard to describe. It truly was a team effort. Crossing the finish line together was just plain cool. All of us wearing our PHAT Tuesday team jerseys. It’s our Tour De France finish.

We crossed the finish line at 10:45am and I have to admit I had tears in my eyes. They were tears of joy and accomplishment. I’ve crossed this finish line many times before but this time it was even sweeter. My journey to get there was a tough one. It is actually the thought of the ride that kept me focused while healing and working with the physical therapists. To go from not being able to move my left arm to crossing the finish line of the Pan Mass Challenge was an incredible feeling.

Provincetown was fun once we were cleaned up. The food at the finish line was plentiful and very good. I don’t think there was anything I didn’t consume at least one of. Burgers, hot dogs, roll ups, clam chowder, chili, chicken and ice cold beer. I think I actually consumed more calories than I burned over the two days which is hard to do after 10.5 hours of cycling but I managed to do it.

We loaded our bikes and luggage onto the trucks for their journey back home. We all then make our way to the pier to take the party ferry back. The walk into town is always enjoyable. I guess I didn’t eat enough as I was still hungry. No problem, I found my favorite pizza place at the dock and stopped for a couple of slices. Yummy…

We boarded the Provincetown II Ferry for our party ride back to Boston. As always this is the highlight of the weekend. It’s the same party year after year with about the same 1000 people and it never gets old. Most of the people on this boat are there to party and enjoy the journey home. You’d think this crew would be tired but nope. This is part of the weekend activity we’ve trained for. We sleep when we get home Sunday night.

The boat ride passed quickly as did the entire weekend. We docked in Boston at 7pm greeted by cheers of friends and family. Our Pan Mass weekend is over. We say our goodbyes and are on our way back home. Another year done and all of us looking forward to the next ride.

Once again I would like to thank you for allowing me to ride on your behalf. It was an honor and a privilege as it always is. This year was special for me. Next year for my 20th Pan Mass I’d like to ride it healthy. I think I’m due 🙂 I look forward to crossing the finish line again next year and hope you will support me as you have in the past.

Until next year.


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